Day 33: Del Rio to Camp Wood, TX (77 miles); April 13, 2021
After a great rest day, I started today with a Texas waffle and a satisfying continental breakfast. We set out in the rain and rode a good, but nondescript 30 miles to Bracketville where we caught up with the guys. Looking for a convenience store Jim prophesied to be just down the street, we kept going until we realized the store didn’t actually exist. So we had a brief break on the side of the road amongst some roadkill carcasses. Glamorous, truly glamorous.
Once the rain let up, the humidity set in. We’re definitely out of the desert and in the hills of Texas. Plenty of rolling hills with wildflowers made us feel like we were back in Virginia, but with cacti. It was really pretty and a great, but drastic, change in landscape.
We had lunch by a goat farm and set out for the last 22 miles. Dripping in sweat, we rolled into the convenience store around 5:30pm and sat outside it for a bit. That’s where we met Ken, a country and western music singer who was good friends with Ray Price (he was deeply offended we didn’t know who Ray Price was). He serenaded us, complimented our teeth, and told us a bunch of stories while I made friends with his chihuahua. He was quite the character.
Speaking of country music stars, my friend Aaron meet us at the RV park (Wes Cooksey – a really great park with a beautiful view of the Nuences River). He came with his mom Roni and her dog Grace. He cooked a great dinner that we were happy to scarf down. I met Aaron in Florida last year while he was performing at a restaurant. He’s an excellent country singer and is about to drop some more music on Spotify (check out Aaron Kantor). Since he splits his time between different states, Texas being one of them, it’s great his schedule lined up with ours that he could meet us. He is going to ride with us a few days while Roni, who is the sweetest person ever, will be our first ever sag! Considering we’re entering hill country, he chose a heck of a time to ride with us.
Day 34: Camp Wood to Lost Maples State Park (45 miles); April 14, 2021
Well Aaron definitely did pick a heck of a day to choose to start riding with us. We began the day with 25 miles of hills. And not just any hills, but hills reminiscent of the Appalachian mountains. Up steep grades with lots of twists and turns. Considering he had an old mountain bike, Aaron handled it like a champ.
When we reached Leakey, Aaron strapped his bike to the RV and said he’d meet us at our night’s stop. Pretty smart move considering how hilly the rest of the way looked. So we were off and conquered those hills, earning ourselves a super steep downhill where we clocked a frightening 45 mph.
With 4 miles left we met the guys at the country store. Jim inspired me to get the best recovery drink there is – a beer – and some ice cream. Because we haven’t had any service and the state park was likely out of RV spots, we asked David if Aaron could park the RV in his reserved camp spot. He had no issues with it and left to see if he could find Aaron. And with a beard like that, he’s pretty hard to miss.
We arrived last and everyone was hanging out. Aaron grilled another delicious dinner for the gang and we all had a great time eating and sharing stories.
Day 35: Lost Maples to Kerrville (46 miles); April 15, 2021
Getting up and looking at the elevation profile, Aaron made a good judgement call and did not join us for the morning. The hills looked intense and steep. And appearance was not deceiving – they were super steep and frequent. It was raining and misty, which added an interesting ambiance to the ride. We crossed the Guadalupe River multiple times and worked our way to Hunt, where we hung out until Aaron and Roni pulled up to meet us.
The next 13 miles to Kerrville looked easy and Aaron was game to join us. Sheena went ahead and Aaron and I stayed back a little. Traffic picked up and the shoulder disappeared intermittently with a thick, slippery white stripe. My tire caught the strip and threw me off balance. Unable to recover, I fell directly into traffic. Luckily there weren’t any cars coming, and luckily Aaron wasn’t directly behind me so I didn’t take him out too. But he was close enough to get my stunned and shocked self out from the middle of the street. The bike was okay and as far as I could tell, so was I. I fell on my left side with some minor road rash on my elbow and hip, but saw that a bruise was already starting to form. I could walk it off, but knew I’d be sore the next few days. I was a bit frazzled, Aaron calmed me down and we rode till we met up with Sheena. Little painful, but workable.
We made it to Kerrville early and Sheena and I did laundry/showered. We took Aaron and Roni out to dinner at a really pretty restaurant on the river with really good food. We’re staying at a KOA and it’s looking like rain all night and into the morning. We’ll probably get a late start in tomorrow to avoid getting rained on too badly.
Day 36: Kerrville to Johnson City, TX (60 miles); April 16, 2021
With it still raining until after 7:30am, we slept in. Planning on a longer day today for a shorter day tomorrow, we for once weren’t worried about a later start. We both feel a lot stronger than the beginning of the trip and a lot more capable of handling longer distances. We mosied around the damp camp until after 10, where we said bye to Aaron and Roni until tomorrow.
The morning was again full of mist with some drizzle. My bodily injuries made themselves known, but were completely manageable once I pedaled enough. The temperature was cool but the humidity was majorly oppressing. We made it to Fredricksberg around 12:30pm, relatively good timing with the wind to our back. With another easy 30 to go, we took an extra long lunch break. Not only cause we were feeling a little lazy, but we had absolutely no idea where in Johnson City we were staying tonight. We’ve been getting a little too lacksey daisy with planning recently now that we’re no longer in the middle of the desert where towns are few and far between.
With hotels either super expensive, bug infested (based on reviews), or sold out of rooms, we were running out of options for where we could stay until Sheena remembered about Warm Showers! We haven’t needed it use it in almost 2 weeks, so it almost completely escaped our memory. Sheena messaged a woman and we kept our fingers crossed it wasn’t too late a notice. Within 2 minutes Julia responded with an “of course!” text, but with one caveat – she is 5 miles off route with 2 of those miles being on a dirt road. Not ideal, but it was a place to stay. So sold.
We finally got on our way to Julia’s around 3pm. And passed a massive amount of vineyards and wineries. I would love to come back to hill country and do a mega wine tour – so many peach wines. We planned on the ride taking only a few hours of easy riding. But like all things, the easier it appears, the more the universe throws curveballs. First was a mild disappointment- 15 miles in we stopped at a cafe to fulfill my donut craving, but they had just closed. Well darn. Not a mile from there I noticed that going downhill was a struggle and I was barely moving. I had yet another flat.
With it approaching 5:00pm and still having to fix the flat, shop, and ride 20 miles, I was tired and not looking forward to riding. Sheena took the lead and I could barely keep up – which was fine cause we made it to Johnson City really quickly. That’s when Julia texted Sheena that we’ll actually be staying a her friend’s house who is out of town. Since Julia had to get gas anyway, she offered to pick us up at the store so we didn’t have to ride the 5 additional miles. SOLD!
We got Subway for dinner and Julia picked us up and took us to the house. Sitting on 5 acres with a beautiful view, it’s a gorgeous small house with a ton of charm. It’s about to go up for sale. Who knows, maybe some jersey gal might snatch it right up from the market. Hmm. But after showing us around, Julia left and we had the house to ourselves. We each have our own room and have been enjoying the quiet and even watched some TV.
Tomorrow is a short day, only a few miles down the road to Dripping Springs to watch Aaron perform. We convinced the retired guys to come along, but it’s looking like their plans might change. Either way, it’ll be a fun day. We’re going to sleep in again and use the morning to really plan for after Austin, considering we have been severely lacking in the planning department. Luckily it worked out for us today, but we don’t want to continue trying our luck.
Day 37: Johnson City to Dripping Springs, TX (20 miles); April 17, 2021
Having a whole house to ourselves and a short day the next day, we indulged in some TV and went to bed late in our own separate rooms. We got up without an alarm and had coffee while planning out the next week. I cannot believe that by the end of next week we’ll be through with Texas. I planned on it taking an entire month, we cruised through it in 20 days, 3 of which were rest days. What great timing!
After planning was complete, we left the house around 12pm to head out for the day. It was hilly with some pretty significant grades, but were able to manage the entire ride in 1.5 hours. Unfortunately, I’m really feeling the effects of the fall. It feels like I got hit by a truck with laughing causing the most pain. But as is true with all things, this pain is temporary.
Our destination for the day is Bells Springs Winery. Since we are in Texas wine country and passed a million wineries yesterday – we had to make at least one stop at a local vineyard to taste the fruit of the land! The vineyard was packed with people dressed in their Saturday best, so imagine the glaring looks we received when our tired dirty looking selves rolled in with a fine glistening layer of sweat. Good thing wine pairs perfectly with any outfit and any amount of filth.
Aaron and Roni met up with us there and we sampled delicious wine and played a hardly competitive game of cornhole. Who would’ve thought Roni would wipe the floor with three young bucks?! She dominated the game and carried Sheena, who could hardly toss the bag with any sort of accuracy.
After our fill of wine, we loaded the bikes onto the Minnie Winnie and rode into Dripping Springs. Aaron had a show lined up there for tonight and we all were excited to cheer him on. The Retired Guys showed up and Aaron had a pretty rowdy fan club to entertain.
Having 2 rest days in a row, we went to bed late after Roni gave Sheena and me a facial treatment, leaving our skin flawless and smooth.
Rest Days in Austin: April 18 & 19, 2021
Apparently a staple of Austin is Franklin’s BBQ. With such a great reputation, people line up hours before it opens just for a shot of its brisket. Being 20 miles away, there was no way we could bike there in time to get in line. So Aaron drove us into the city. Unfortunately, indoor dining was closed and we were too early to order for pickup. So we went to REI instead to pick up new tubes, since we didn’t get new tires. We’ll probably get a few more flats along our way to Florida.
After that we got lunch at Coopers BBQ, which Aaron claimed to be better than Franklin’s. While I can’t vouche for that, I can say it’s the best BBQ so far on this trip. Which is a good thing cause I’m pretty sure I’m all BBQ’d out at this point and it’s great to end it on a high note.
We walked around the downtown a little before saying goodbye to Aaron and Roni. We might see them briefly tomorrow, but it’s likely this’ll be it. It was great having them with us this week. Even though we rode everyday, it felt like a little mini vacation from the bike world and we had a ton of fun with them. But we’re ready to be more serious and get in more miles and back on track.
We’re staying with a beautiful family we found on Warm Showers. We walked into Dan and Ann’s home in the middle of Sunday family dinner. They invited us to have chili with them and they were absolutely wonderful to talk with. Their house is stunning with lots of gorgeous architecture with a Mexican feel. Which isn’t surprising considering they own a vacation home in Mexico. There were children everywhere when we arrived and we quickly made friends with them. These kids are basically geniuses and talking with them is like talking to a mini adult. They’re adorable. Sheena even read them a bed time story, by request.
We got gelato around the corner and were ready to hit the hay for another rest day.
We woke up to coffee and did some more planning for further out to New Orleans. It’s still mind blowing that we’ll soon be out of Texas – something I imagined being a huge mental drag. But it’s been anything but. It’s been an awesome part of the trip with lots of fun highlights.
As with any rest day, we looked forward to exploring the city by eating our way through it. Ann and Dan’s house is very close to downtown where all the action is, so we were excited to being within walking distance to all the great eats. We got amazing breakfast tacos at Granny’s, a ginormous donut at Gordoughs, a Texas staple at Whattaburger, and closed out the day with happy hour at Moonshine.
Austin is a really interesting city. There’s construction everywhere for skyscrapers and apartments/condos. The population is booming with big corporations like Google and Amazon building hubs there. Like any city, it has its pockets of extreme wealth and contrasting tent cities. Known for its music scene and food, it was great to explore this expanding city for 2 days. But we’re definitely ready to move on and continue with this trip. We’re officially sick of Mexican and BBQ and totally ready to explore cajun country for both the food and the culture.